From «the native is the enemy of the forest» towards «community based natural resources management»: A History of Forest Exploitation in Mozambique

Affentranger, Lukas. From «the native is the enemy of the forest» towards «community based natural resources management»: A History of Forest Exploitation in Mozambique. 2010, Master Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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This thesis contributes to the research on forestry history in Africa. It draws the history of forest exploitation in Mozambique from around 1900 up to the present time.
The work was written within to the Project Q804 («Capacidade de regeneração florestal e seu melhoramento pela gestão florestal e silvicultura em Cabo Delgado») which is part of the ESAPP (Eastern and Southern African Partnership Programme). This interdisciplinary project is a collaboration of the University Eduardo Mondlane (Maputo) and the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of the University of Bern with the overarching objective of investigating the regeneration capacities of forests and their improvement through forestry in Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique.
An illegal sawmill in the middle of the forest.
The sources employed include written documents and information gathered with participative research methods during field research in three villages of Cabo Delgado Province in northern Mozambique. The work is structured according to the three main groups of stakeholders which dominated the way forests were used over time: the state, commercial timber companies and the local communities living in or near the forests.
Throughout the colonial period the forest conservation and management was present in the scientific discourse. This was translated into the creation of forest reserves and hunting regulations at the beginning of the twentieth century. Former should secure the supply of timber for the construction of infrastructure and hunting regulations were influenced by an international convention and should mainly protect big game for European sports hunters.  Conservationist ideas gained popularity among scholars in the 1930s and were increasingly taken into account by policy makers after the Second World War. The conservation of forest resources was predominantly motivated by utilitarian reasons. Forests were seen as huge economic capital of the colony. From this capital predominantly vegetal products like rubber and mangrove barks were exploited up to the Second World War. It was only during the War that timber started to contribute significantly to the Mozambican economy. The main areas of exploitation were in southern and most of all central Mozambique.
Colonial scientists saw the forests vanishing at an alarming speed because of the devastating effects of improper commercial logging and most of all because of the destructive agricultural methods of «the indigenous». African production methods were seen as backward and uncivilised. Hence in order to solve the Mozambican «forest problem» Africans had to be civilized. This meant the modernization of their production systems and the introduction of fertilizers. Thus the protection of forest resources became a marker of civilization and a crucial factor in being a potent colonial power.
After independence the forest industry collapsed and Frelimo’s efforts to manage the forests were not implemented. Frelimo policies up to the 1980s still excluded local communities living in or near forests from any participation in the decision-making process. A turning point was the new constitution of 1990. During the 1990s new forestry legislation was worked out which led to the Forestry and Wildlife Law of 1999. It was still a Law elaborated without the consultation of representations of the local rural communities but at least recognised them as beneficiaries from the commercial exploitation. This was changed in the development process of the Regulations of the Law which were published in 2002. The Regulations were the result of a broad based consultation process. During the same time commercial timber exploitation constantly increased most significantly for export to China.
During colonial as well as post-colonial times external pressure strongly influenced forestry legislations. Conservation measures during colonial times served as a legitimization for the Portuguese presence in its colonies. After independence, Mozambican authorities fulfilled the wishes of donor organisations and countries for more democratic processes in the regulation of the management of natural resources. This process went hand in hand with the recognition of traditional authorities, which Frelimo had tried to by-pass for a long time. In addition, the involvement of rural communities in the forest management strategies nicely fitted into the most popular of all politicians projects: «a luta contra pobreza – the fight against poverty.»
The new legislation was in many respects a landmark ruling on paper. But its enforcement has been highly criticized. This is a point raised throughout the period studied: forestry enforcement capacities have always been perceived as very poor.
In the area studied in the districts of Mocimboa da Praia and Nangade in Cabo Delgado Province it became evident that the distribution of the share from tax revenues of commercial logging was not conducted in a democratic way. Local leaders are the main beneficiaries from the new legislations because they control the new institutions established in order to manage forests on the local level and which are also responsible for the distribution of the revenues. Hence the new legislation strengthens the existing power relations rather than contesting them. From «the community» only a small proportion of people profit. Most of them are male and part of or close to the leading structure.
All the people in the studied communities depend in varying degrees on the forests and their products for their livelihoods. Different products are collected according to profession, sex, ethnic affiliation and social and economic status. Throughout history there has been a close interaction between the people living south of the Rovuma River and their natural environment. Forests provided protection from raiding Nguni bands in the nineteenth century, the Portuguese troops during the liberation struggle and from Renamo troops in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Forests provided products, most of all ivory, which linked the region to the international capital system well before the Portuguese presence.
Local people influence their environment most visibly by their production systems. Most of all the uncontrolled fires from hunting and clearing of the fields constitute the main threat to the regeneration of forest ecosystems. Although these have already been an issue well back in colonial times this problem is far from being solved. Another great threat to the forests is the illegal logging which occurs on a large scale. The involvement of local communities in the enforcement of the forestry legislation was non-existent in the area studied. This is mainly because local people do not see any incentives to do so. Another reason is that community members themselves are often involved in the illegal practices and profit from them.
This work revealed the complexity of the interaction between the humans living close to forests and their environments. The effects of commercial exploitation and the new Forestry and Wildlife Law are at present only partially recognizable. Later studies may bring more light into the effects on the rural societies as well as on the forests. Another factor which might gain prominence in the near future is the effects of global climate change. Changing precipitation patterns might change the forest ecosystem as well as the production methods of the rural people.
CaptionPhoto 1: The transport of logs to the sea port is in most cases the only motorised means of transport available to the people in remote rural areas.Photo 2: In a forest degraded by recent fires logs are pulled on a lorry.
Advisors:Harries, Patrick
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Geschichte > Ehemalige Einheiten Geschichte > Geschichte Afrikas (Harries)
UniBasel Contributors:Harries, Patrick
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Master Thesis
Thesis status:Complete
Last Modified:05 Apr 2018 17:36
Deposited On:06 Feb 2018 11:22

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